California Debates Who Should Pay for Destructive Wildfires

California Debates Who Should Pay for Destructive Wildfires

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Firefighters are stretched thin by more than a dozen blazes burning throughout California.

As wildfires are now a year-round threat, politicians in Sacramento are debating who should pay for the growing number of fires, now and in the future.

The central question before lawmakers is whether public utilities should remain “strictly liable” for damage from fires that start because of their equipment, according to The Washington Post.

Currently, utilities such as Pacific Gas and Electric, are liable even if the companies are not negligent. PG&E face costs that could hit $12 billion for its role in at least a dozen wildfires in six counties in Northern California last year.

Utilities here are owned by shareholders, and liability for fire damage has, in the past, been passed on to customers.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said: “there is concern that we could lose our utilities” to bankruptcy unless the law changes, according to The Washington Post.

While PG&E has been pushing for reform, insurance companies are fighting any change, given that costs will be theirs alone if the rules change.

The insurance companies will pay for damage from the Carr Fire burning near Redding, which was sparked by a malfunctioning vehicle.

Six of the 20 most destructive fires in California history have occurred in the past 12 months, including ones caused by utility company equipment.

Read more about the policy debate at washingtonpost.com.